After falling off a cliff at Knights Ferry, Allison Deffley could have been paralyzed or dead. Instead, the 18-year-old Modestan faces a nine-month recovery — with gratitude.
It was a beautiful cool day in April when Deffley called her boyfriend and some friends and planned a trip to Knights Ferry. It rained that morning and the sky was accented by puffy white clouds when the group set out from the recreation area.
They’d been walking a few minutes when they saw a group of large rocks that led to a flat area on top. It was when Deffley reached the top that she slipped on some wet grass, landing on her stomach with her lower body dangling over the edge.
She said she recalls a few brief moments in which she grabbed desperately at the grass for anything to hold onto and one of her friends lunging toward her. But she quickly fell off the sheer cliff, landing feet first then onto her back about 30 feet below.
“I remember falling but I don’t remember the initial impact,” Deffley said. “My butt and legs were flat on the ground and my left shoulder was twisted to the right. I lifted up my foot and I could see the bottom sole of my shoe on the top of my foot.”
Deffley’s ankle was broken in three places and a vertebrae in her lower back shattered. She had a fractured pelvis, and a few of her spinous process , which hold muscles and and ligaments to the spine, broke off.
It would be another hour until she reached a hospital.
Deffley said her boyfriend and a friend climbed down and tried to calm her as they waited about 25 minutes for firefighters and paramedics. She said it took about 20 more minutes for them to strap her down to a board in a metal basket, then hoist her up the cliff.
“They had to pass me from person to person up this mountain,” Deffley said. “They were passing me hand-to-hand and I was at a 90-degree angle.”
Deffley was loaded into an ambulance, then driven to a nearby helicopter, which flew her to Doctors Medical Center.
She underwent surgery and remained in the hospital for two weeks. Deffley couldn’t have surgery on her ankle until she healed some from the back surgery, which included two weeks in an inpatient rehab where she said, “I had to relearn how to sit up, how to feed myself, put on makeup.”
Deffley then had her surgery on the ankle, which required 11 screws and two plates to fix. Her back has 10 screws and two rods.
“It didn’t really hit me until I was home what happened,” Deffley said. “(In the hospitals) I was just going with the flow and doing what people told me.
“Being 18 years old, I was a very free child; I would leave every day and go hang out with friends. Now I am at a point where I am trying to get back to that.”
Deffley still has to walk with crutches and cannot bear weight on her left foot. She is weaning off her back brace but must wear it for nine more months.
She hopes soon to be well enough to start classes at Modesto Junior College and find a job that is not too physically demanding.
Deffley said she’s grateful she’s healing quickly, even surprising her doctors.
“With the fall that I had, it is tremendous that it wasn’t worse,” she said.